Why Does My Dog Respond That Way?- Petting Dog App

Have you attended a dog training class, maybe a Leash Lunger or Reactive Dog Class?  You see other dogs in class improving, but your dog continues to scan the environment instead of looking at you.

Some of these dogs still lunge at dogs, but they have met each other and no longer have a need to be persistent.

Where I Start…

When a client brings me a dog, I begin with identifying who the dog is prior to setting any expectations. Each dog is an individual, and will show you how they will respond if you know what to look for. I will share a recent consultation with you below.

Consultation : REACTIVE DOG (short version)

Dog: Stella, 2 year old spayed solid black German Shepherd in good health. Lives with her mom and a 4 year old child who she enjoys being with.

History:  Stella does well in daycare, and never shows aggression to any people or dogs. They describe her as tolerant of the young adolescent dogs and will play with any dog that engages her. Mom says she allowed Stella to greet other dogs on leash when she was a pup to socialize her, she has never acted aggressively with any dog she has met.

Owners Complaint:  Stella’s Mom complains that she cannot walk Stella on a leash, as she pulls extremely hard to get to any dog she sees in her environment. Even if she puts treats to her nose, Stella will not reorient to her, she physically has to pull Stella away.


When I observed Stella’s behavior it was immediately apparent that she was extremely visually aware of her environment, as she constantly turned her head to anything that moved. She is fairly high energy and trots, not walks, to whatever interests her. When she saw a bird over her head in the tree, she stood still staring at it for several minutes, not moving a muscle. When her mom called to her, she ignored the calling and remained focused on the birds as a second bird joined the first one. Finally, her mom said “Stella, want a treat?”, Stella twitched her ear and then looked at her mom, then returned to watching the birds for a several seconds before responding to her mom for the treat. Once she ate the treat, she trotted back to the tree and visually watched anything that moved.

Who is Stella?

Stella showed us that she is extremely visually aware of her environment and she is very persistent in this visual behavior when the stimuli is interesting to her. She also showed us that she is not willing to come to us, unless she knows the reward is worth it to her. She has her own interests and is persistent when something interests her. She also loves playing with all the neighborhood dogs.


Would Stella likely be a leash lunger?  Yes! Now you see how the combination of her temperament plays a significant role in her (response) behavior. 


What key change could Stella’s mom incorporate in her leash training? Increase the value of the reward to something that Stella finds very rewarding. We determined she liked dried liver extremely well.

Effective behavior modification programs work on many dogs but will not work completely if your dog loves dogs, is visually persistent by nature and is not very food motivated. When this is the case, patience and understanding is key!

I am having trouble getting this pups attention as she is extremely aware of her environment, loves dogs and is somewhat food motivated. Patience is needed here as we allow her to be who she is.

Now you know…

If you are wanting to change your dogs behavior, first try looking at your dog to see who they are, what is their nature, their temperament. Some traits to consider: sociability with people and dogs, patient, vocal, high energy, lazy, becomes extremely aroused when near people or dogs, biddable with or without food, visually or olfactory aware and persistent. Understanding who your dog is will help you understand WHY she responds the way she does

Could Spaying and Neutering Dogs Affect Aggression???- Petting Dog App

Could Spaying and Neutering Dogs Affect Aggression???

OK, many years ago we had a huge problem here in America with unwanted pets and irresponsible breeding of dogs… This led to over populations in our shelters and massive loss of life from having to put animals down due to overcrowding.

Fast forward…. We have done a remarkable job with the idea of spaying and neutering pet dogs and the problem of over crowding while still there is not near as large. Unfortunately we have, in this same time period, seen an increased frequency of snarky behavior with dogs!

Now look, I do not believe that these two are directly related (instead maybe there might be a correlation)  The topics are way to complicated to make that leap, but this article might shed light on the possibility that when we try to fix one problem we can (Maybe) create and unintended issue else where. So, please read this article and talk to your vet but I think it might be time to rethink our ideas (or at least do more research) on this topic, of how spaying and neutering pet dogs might relate to aggression!!!!

If there are any Vets reading this I would love to hear your thoughts!!!

PS thoughts are fine as long as you can stay civil (Name calling will get you deleted  🙂 )


Case study: French bulldog with noise phobia- Petting Dog App

Meet Mr. X. He is a 14-months-old French bulldog I’ve recently seen in behaviour therapy. He was referred to me by a veterinary clinic for his pervasive fears.

French bulldog

Upon closer questioning, it turns out he does not have a fear problem in the broad sense of the term. He is actually bombproof about everything. Everything except for, well, bombs.

He panics at sudden sounds: a mug falling on the floor, a passing car, a moped back-firing.

He doesn’t just startle, he really panics. We’re talking crawling or running to the nearest hiding place, cherry eyes, shrieking. If you try to restrain him in these moments, he’ll frantically try to escape, come what may.

The issue is that it is affecting his walks as he’ll need time to settle after a scare and there aren’t enough noise-free moments in the city for him to recover. This is what gives him the presentation of an agoraphobic or generalized anxiety patient.

His owners want to first give med-free behaviour therapy a try before considering a vet behaviourist route.

Dog behaviour problem: etiology (causal factors)

Many factors have contributed to the problem:

  1. Genetics: his mother suffers from the same condition
  2. The dog appears to be more prone, more sensitive, after being overstimulated (e.g. market day)
  3. A few months back, the problem dramatically worsened after someone threw fireworks at the dog!
  4. Chronic ear infections: the pain and discomfort alone can decrease a dog’s irritability and fear threshold and put the dog in a state of chronic stress, but it may be something mechanical is at play too. Some ear infections lead to an over-sensitivity to sound.

Dog behaviour advice

  1. Desensitisation and counterconditioning (D&C) protocol to sudden sounds, with specific instructions on how to make the later stages as realistic as possible (see Punk your dog).
  2. Take him in the car (he loves the car) to the woods, rather than walking there via busy streets.
  3. Cognitive feeding: because this calms every dog down (a bit) on every level, it is fun, and it costs nothing
  4. Avoid above-threshold noise exposures as much as possible, and compensate each unfortunate exposure with 10 D&C moments.

Dog behaviour prognosis

I demonstrated the exercises and left detailed handouts behind and asked them to try this for six weeks, then see me again for a re-evaluation. If the dog is not making suitable progress, then I will refer to the veterinary behaviourist.

Photo credits

Photo: Canis bonus

Introducing Service Puppy in-Training, Rogan- Petting Dog App

We’re back in the world of raising service puppies again! I promised our seniors (Nemo, Lily, and Tango — service dog dropouts themselves) that as they entered their “golden years,” they could retire from helping us raise service puppies. Levi was the last service dog we raised. We picked him up in January 2014 — four years ago since a service puppy in-training was in our house!

Day 1

Sadly, we lost all four of our dogs over about a year and we found ourselves with an empty house. We brought on sweet Walter, a pup I’m raising for a client. And then, given the news of our (almost) empty house, a service dog organization asked us if we could raise a pup for them again. Adventurous is how you might describe us, and we said “Of course!”

There were eight puppies in Rogan’s litter. I wasn’t sure whether our pup would be a yellow or a black. I was ambivalent — I just lost the love of my life yellow Labrador, Tango. I was torn between really wanting another yellow in the house and being terrified that a yellow would come live with us. Obviously, Rogan is a yellow. It took a few days for me to adjust to another yellow in the house. He’s very different (of course) than Tango was which makes his presence in our house a lot easier for me and my heart.

yellow Lab, yellow Labrador, service puppy in training, service dog in training

Nap time

Needless to say, Walter is thrilled to have a young playmate. And we love having two dogs in the house together. While I don’t love the idea of litter mates, Walter and Rogan are seven weeks apart which means less risk of co-dependence and the other problems that come along with litter mates. We are, of course, also working hard to ensure that these puppies learn how to be independent and enjoy frequent people-time, as well. They are great playmates and entertainment for one another. These two tire one another out in a way that we never could.

yellow Labrador, yellow Lab, service puppy in training, service dog in training

A little “me” time.

A little rest.

Rogan’s training

Rogan’s training has already begun. Puppies are capable of learning so much that we start right away at eight weeks. These pups actually started their learning prior to going to their puppy raiser homes. They all learned to sit for whatever they wanted from any human. How, you ask, do you teach a litter of eight puppies to sit?! Simple: wait for it to happen, then reinforce it when it happens. What does this look like in real life? When it’s feeding time (or visiting time), the puppies get a morsel of food as soon as their rump hits the floor. They learn fast: all that stands between them and a piece of food (or some human affection and attention) is to put their rump on the floor! And it’s a whole lot easier to sit than it is to jump!

yellow Labrador, yellow Lab, service puppy in training, service dog in training

Rogan and company

It’s important for any dog, but particularly a service dog, to learn that behavior has consequences. One of Rogan’s first training lessons was an “attention” session. I used part of his breakfast to teach Rogan that looking at me earned him a small part of his breakfast. I sat on the floor, clicker in hand, and simply waited for Rogan to look in my direction. The instant he did, I clicked and reached to give him a piece of his breakfast. The click tells him exactly what he’s doing to earn the goodie. I do a little bit of this everyday and it’s amazing how quickly Rogan voluntarily looks at me — not just in a training session, but whenever he’s not sure what to do.

There will be many lessons coming up for Rogan. Stay tuned, I’ll post updates and adventures here!

9 Innovative Dog Rescue Programs- Petting Dog App

In an ideal world, every dog would have a loving owner and a warm home. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world, and The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that 3.3 million dogs enter shelters every year (this number doesn’t include stray dogs who don’t enter a shelter).

But there are thousands of shelters and dog rescue programs working to make our world a little more perfect, and they strive to help every dog find their forever homes. Below, we highlight some of the most innovative and unique dog rescue programs from around the United States. If you live near one, they’re all worthy of your volunteer hours, and if you don’t, they’re always in need of donations.

Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

Puppies and younger dogs get snapped up at shelters, while the older ones often have a tough time getting adopted. Sherri Franklin started Muttville Senior Dog Rescue program in order to change this fact.

Founded in 2007, Muttville has been working for more than a decade to place senior and special needs rescue dogs in homes; the dog rescue program also offers end-of-life care for dogs that are not adoptable. Muttville rescued its 5,000th dog in September 2017, and the shelter now rescues an average of 1,000 dogs a year. While based in San Francisco, the shelter accepts dogs from all over California and places them in homes state-wide as well.

Austin Pets Alive!

As the name suggests, this Texas-based shelter is a leader in the no-kill movement. After looking at the data, staff realized that the average live rate at city shelters was only about 50%. To close this gap, Austin Pets Alive! created rescue programs that focus on animals that might otherwise be euthanized at a different shelter.

They created a Parvo Puppy ICU to treat puppies and dogs with parvovirus, as well as a Dog Behavior Program to support dogs that require additional behavioral attention. Such programs have helped the city of Austin save more than 90% of shelter animals since 2011.

Most recently, Austin Pets Live! partnered with Houston Pets Live! in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to rescue more than 3,000 animals thanks to funds from Bark for Good, an initiative by BarkShop that donates 5% of the proceeds from sales of their adorable dog toys and tasty dog treats to organizations that help keep dogs out of shelters.

New York Bully Crew

Pitbulls have been saddled with a reputation for being aggressive, making many potential owners loathe to adopt a dog from this breed. (As with any dog breed, aggression and non-aggression in pitbulls are greatly impacted by changeable factors such as training, environment, and treatment.)

New York Bully Crew is on a mission to change this reputation. The Long Island-based program specializes in rescuing and rehabilitating pitbulls from around the nation, though they focus a lot on the greater NYC area. While the program was founded to help save pitbulls, Bully Crew won’t turn away dogs of any breed that need help. The program also raises awareness about the cruelties of dog fighting, abuse, and neglect, and runs a text-and-email hotline for reporting these issues.

Greyhound Pets of America

Another breed-specific rescue program, Greyhound Pets of America (GPA) helps greyhounds find forever homes after their racing careers are over. While many think of greyhounds primarily as athletic dogs meant for racing, they are very friendly and non-confrontational, and adapt well to more laidback, post-racing lifestyles.

GPA has various chapters in 25 states, and together the chapters have helped 80,000 greyhounds get adopted nationwide since GPA was founded in 1987. The national chapter does accept donations, but most of the adoption work is run through the local chapters; check the listing to see if there’s one in your state.

Karma Rescue

While Karma Rescue often takes in pitbulls, they also accept other dogs (and the occasional cat) who are looking for their forever homes. The organization runs multiple programs, but it’s perhaps best known for its Paws for Life initiative, a prison-based dog training program available at multiple prisons throughout California.

Over 12 weeks, inmates help train the dogs to receive the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification, the gold-standard in canine obedience. There’s also a more intense 52-week program in which inmates train formerly homeless dogs to serve as specially-trained companions for military veterans with PTSD. Not only does the Paws for Life program increase a dog’s chances of getting adopted, it also helps the inmates gain life skills and develop empathy.

National Mill Dog Rescue

When it comes to puppy mills, many focus on the puppies (as the name “puppy mill” implies) and forget about the adult dogs that are forced to continuously breed litters. The adult dogs are often confined in cages for years, with little or no medical care.

National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR) was founded to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome “retired” breeding dogs. To start off their new lives, every single dog is spayed or neutered, given additional medical care, and bathed and groomed. Based in Peyton, Co., the program is also open to out-of-state adoptions. If you live in the area, NMDR’s work 95% volunteer based, so they’re always looking for extra pairs of hands.

Angels Among Us Pet Rescue

This program is dedicated to saving dogs (and cats) from high-kill shelters across north Georgia. Each animal is placed in a foster home in the greater Atlanta area until they find their forever home; Angels Among Us does not operate its own facility, though the program does hold regular adoption events so potential adoptees can meet multiple foster dogs at once.

Once a dog is transferred from the shelter into Angels Among Us, the pooch isn’t returned to the shelter for any reason. Angels Among Us does consider out-of-state adoptions, and even offers remote volunteer opportunities for those who don’t live in the Atlanta area.

K9s For Warriors

Located in Florida, K9s For Warriors helps both dogs AND military veterans. The program provides service dogs to military veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma. The dogs trained in the program are either rescued from shelters or donated by the public, and they’re given both a new home and a new lease on life through the program.

It costs approximately $27,000 to train and place a service dog, but these expenses are covered entirely through donations, and veterans are never charged a cent. Even if dogs don’t meet the requirements to become a service animal, K9s For Warriors will keep working to help them find their forever homes.

Hope for Paws

Odds are that you’ve seen one of Hope for Paws’ many viral videos of dog rescues. The Los Angeles-based rescue organization has more than 2 million subscribers on its YouTube channel, and has amassed more than 540 million views (yes, you read that number correctly) since its inception.

The organization’s awareness efforts really took off in 2012, when a video documenting the rescue of a blind dog named Fiona went viral. In addition to finding her forever home, Fiona got a chance to meet Anderson Cooper and Kristin Chenoweth on national TV, helping to spread the word about Hope for Paws and animal rescue efforts everywhere.

What You Can Do

Regardless of where you live, there are plenty of ways to get involved and help dogs find their forever homes. Check to see if any of these rescue programs are located near where you live. If not, there are bound to be other shelters and rescue programs nearby; look for no- or low-kill shelters that euthanize as few dogs as possible and strive to place each and every one of them in a loving, comfortable home.

Rescue programs and shelters are always in need of donations as well as volunteer time, including specific items such as beds, blankets, food, treats, and dog toys. Of course, shelters and rescue programs also accept cash donations, and you can support any of the rescue programs listed here by contributing online, even if you live hundreds of miles away.

If you’re looking to get a dog, consider adopting from a shelter or rescue program — if just one out of every 10 Americans adopted a dog, we could almost clear out the shelters. And whether you’re hoping to adopt a dog or already own one (or several), be sure that they’re neutered or spayed. The first step to keeping dogs out of shelters is keeping down the birth rate, and neutering or spaying your pooch is one of the most effective steps in preventing overpopulation, and the abuse and neglect that comes with it.

There’s power in numbers, and if each of us gave just a little bit of our time or money, it would go a long way to helping every dog in the country get adopted. Donate or volunteer today, and start making a difference to the dogs.

Teaching a Dog That Touch is Good :-)- Petting Dog App

OK had a client this morning with a Jack Russel Adult that would get overstimulated when getting pets and then very quick get frustrated and growl (no biting but scary to the owners and I am sure for those doing the petting)… Many of you know I am the “Hand Feeding” freak and yes there are ways to work this kind of behavior with adults and even better with puppies (while in that critical developmental period) While the techniques are pretty much the same the reasoning can be very different!

  • Puppies (8 weeks to 15 weeks or so): for these guys just pair all touch with food and help wire the brain that touch is safe, fun and rewarding!!! Pretty much just do it. Make sure it is you and plenty of other folks (men, women, kids, folks wearing uniforms… You name it just do it and always pair with food!
  • Adults (older that 20-25 weeks): These dogs are already out of the socialization period and are on their way to the Juvenile/Adolescent stage  or are already adults. So they might already have some baggage 🙁 So go slow and do not push. This would fall into that Under Threshold (not growly bitey behavior) Short duration (5-10 minutes tops) High Frequency (3-5 times a day) training I always talk about!

If the dog has issues with over stimulation or  anxiety/fear with touch, especially with the hot spots (feet, face, teeth or tail) then move slow and reward the snot out of the contact… Obviously if you have a dog you are concerned will bite, this is not something I would recommend doing without professional help!!! Call us or call another positive reinforcement trainer to help you along with the process!


Durable Chew Toys for Aggressive Dog Behavior

Aggressive dog behavior can come up at any age. Apparently, uncontrollable chewing can develop ever since dogs get their permanent teeth and gums begin to feel uncomfortable. From then on, it’s a matter of training and promoting good behavior.
However, you should take not that aggressive dogs are the ones that spend a lot of time alone, don’t entirely consume their energy and end up barking and chewing excessively, as well as being violent towards other dogs. Owners of such temperamental furry friends are in a constant and sometimes unsuccessful search for durable chew toys.

Chew toys have a few advantages that you shouldn’t ignore. They keep a dog busy while consuming their energy. Also, they are mostly optimized to support dog gums and healthy teeth. You might know this, as well as the fact that some toys turn out to be less than durable or indestructible.

7 Durable Chew Toys for Your Aggressive Animal Friend

Below you can find seven of the chew toys that qualify as the most durable ones in the field. If you have more dogs or look for solutions that fill your house with options, you should dig into the ToyPetReviews chart of other favorite indestructible chew toys. Let’s see some durable chew toys that you can find almost anywhere and promise to even last ten times longer than the average ones!

West Paws Zogoflex Zisc Tough Flying Disc Dog Play Toy
A disc might not be the ideal house that you want around your home, as the dog can use it while you’re away and harm furniture items. However, this flying disc dog toy promises to calm your dog down while you’re in the park.

Cesar Millan says that a tired dog is a happy one. Medium to large-sized breeds enjoy fetching game, and this orange-colored disc takes it to the next level. The toy is lightweight, and it’s also suitable for the water-loving dog. The toy is BPA and phthalate free and dishwasher safe. It flies far as it’s made of hard plastic that softens in the dog’s mouth.

Kyjen Squirrel Squeaker Mat
I’m guessing you didn’t expect a plush toy in this chart. The Kyjen Squirrel Squeaker Mat is excellent for small to medium-sized dogs that have aggressive behavior. Squeaking toys are attractive. This one particularly comes with a long-lasting squeaking interior design that promises to last as much as the dog’s interest towards playing.

The toy comes with no stuffing that the dog can swallow after tearing the mat apart. However, in the meantime, he or she might get distracted by the multiple squeakers that the toy comes with.

Kong Extreme Dog Toy
If you have an aggressive chewer, then you might have heard of Kong’s collection of toys adjusted for all breeds. Its most indestructible (no toy is entirely indestructible, but these ones get pretty close) items come in five sizes.

The Kong Extreme toys are ultra-strong and durable and versatile enough to suit both indoors and outdoors. Also, they come with a hole that helps you stuff the toys with treats that keep dogs busy for longer. You can purchase such a toy for small, medium and large-sized dogs, including breeds with stronger teeth than others.

Elk Antler Healthy Chew
Many dogs – especially puppies – consider treats as toys. That’s why this chart includes the Elk Antler Healthy Chew that lasts longer than others and leaves less mess and odor, according to Amazon reviews. It’s a natural eco and dog-friendly premium treat that was handcrafted to look and taste attractive.

The bone contains calcium, glucosamine, chondroitin, vitamins, minerals, and phosphorus to keep your dog’s teeth healthy. The bone is even naturally colored in brown for an attractive effect. You can consider this bone as an item to integrate into the dog’s dental care.

Jolly Pets Romp-n-Roll 8 Inch Ball with Rope
The Jolly Pets-made toy works for large breeds that enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors. The brand has a history of creating extreme toys since it began by developing products for horse entertainments and developed into focusing on solutions for hard chewing.

This ball is designed for throwing, carrying, launching, kicking and much more. So, it can successfully accomplish the laborious tasks of dog fun. The toy also floats on water and dries quickly, as it’s made for non-toxic Polyethylene plastic. Manufacturers recommend it especially to owners of Labs.

Benebone Bacon
This is one of the best and durable chew toys that keeps dogs from choking while playing. The toy was engineered using a Y-shaped design to fit the pet’s jaw. It’s also flavored with bacon that lasts through long chewing sessions.

The toy works for all medium to large breeds, and you can even grip it while the dog plays. The money you spend buying these durable chew toys goes to the company’s initiative to support animal welfare.

Thank dog – the chew we’ve all been wishing for has finally arrived! Pup owners know how quickly their precious pooches can choke. Why risk it with a biscuit? The Benebone is engineered for safe and extended lasting chewing. Benebone chews are made in the USA, and every sale supports animal welfare.

FurryFido Treat Dispensing Smart Interactive Dog Ball
This 4.5-inch ball helps your dog stay entertained and exercise while consuming his or her energy. You can use the ball for dogs which are kept outdoors or in the backyard. The toy comes in sturdy silicone that makes a squeaky noise when moved around.

The ball can be stuffed with dog goodies. So, if your dog behaves during the daytime, you can let him or her play with the ball, and stuff it with treats for a quality-time ritual when you get home.

Wrapping Up

These toys were specially engineered and designed to face the teeth of dogs with aggressive behavior, regardless of size and breed.

Pick your dog’s potential favorite and watch them play around and consume energy!

Tough choice for your dog: medical or mental health? – PetBlogApp

When an ear infection can mean the end

I cracked the other day. I called a friend, in tears, contemplating the worst for my dog.

I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t keep sabotaging my dog’s painfully slow (behavioural) treatment with frequent painful (veterinary) treatment.

My big crisis? My dog stared at my hand and pulled back when I tried to put medication in his ear canal. This was the first time he refused treatment by us in months.

The veterinarian’s perspective

The vets were confused by the idea of a fear-free approach to medical treatment.

They often mistook my reluctance to push him past his limits with spoiling or over-protecting him. They mistook his growling and desperate escape attempts for ‘bad’ behaviour.

They make the point that: “Treatment needs to happen. Nobody likes it. Grit your teeth and get it over with.”

The behaviourist’s perspective

A dog with established fear- or pain aggression, of all dogs, must be kept “below threshold” during medical treatment. You must keep the level of Fear-Anxiety-Stress so low that it won’t poison him against his next vet treatment, making matters 1,000,000 times worse.

Unpleasant memories with treatment isn’t such a big deal for dogs who visit the vet’s twice a year – although, as a behaviourist, I even disagree with that. But patients with chronic conditions can become so averse to treatment that euthanasia becomes a serious option.

A tough choice: mental or medical health?

So I cried. After months of behaviour work to fix his aversion to vet treatment, my dog was pulling back again. And consistently so.

I was caught between a rock and a hard place: either I’d grit my teeth and undo months of behaviour work, or I’d neglect a health issue that could turn nasty.

Low stress veterinary handling

All things considered, my dog is actually a great patient. At least in our home. We’ve come a long way since the days he would growl at us for just looking down at his paw.

Now, he’ll stay relaxed and engaged when:

  • We smear painful sores on his paws
  • He sits through a 15-minute medicated bath.
  • He gets an injection.
  • We manipulate his ears.

It took months of patience and pretty much all the low stress handling and fear free veterinary treatment tools in the box, but my husband and I taught him:

  • A word for each treatment, so he could see it coming.
  • To tell us when something was getting to be too much, so we could take a break.
  • To stretch his comfort zone to even more invasive treatments.
  • To position himself so he could be involved in the process.

He was also, slowly but surely, getting more relaxed at the vet clinic and with the vet staff.

You can’t train a dog to like pain

We’d achieved so much that it hadn’t crossed my mind there could be limits.

I seriously expected him to lean into the pain with his latest painful otitis.

Looking at it from a distance, it is actually crazy how docile many pets are when undergoing even painful treatment. Think about this: The have no idea that it’s for their own good. Let that sink in for a minute.

It took me ridiculously long to realize that I could practice as often as I’d like, I would never train a dog to love pain.

After days of trying to treat the ear below threshold, we were getting nowhere on the medical treatment and he was pulling back from his other treatments too.

It pays to have friends in the dog biz

So there I sat. On the floor. With my bottle of ear meds in my hand. Angry at myself for not having been able to ‘train’ this. Angry at the dog for all the time we’d sunk into this. Angry at my husband for husbands are there to be blamed.

I called a friend in tears and said:

  • If I can’t prevent him sensitizing against treatment again, are we headed for the bad old days again?
  • How are we going to keep up with the daily treatment and preserve our behavioural progress?
  • What is going to happen to his still ineffectively treated ear infection?
  • What good has all that behaviour modification been if it comes crumbling as soon as things get real?

We talked it through and I felt a little better, but I still hadn’t solved the behaviour-medical health conundrum.

The next day, I reached out to dog pro friends to get some perspective:

  1. a trainer,
  2. a vet nurse, and
  3. a behaviour-savvy vet.
  4. I am also lucky enough to be friends with The Netherlands’ only board-certified veterinary behaviourist, Valerie Jonckheer-Sheehy (DVM, EBVS) so I got some gold advice there.
  5. And of course, I touched base with the vet in charge of his treatment at the excellent Wateringseveld fear-free veterinary clinic.

That was as bunch of conversations but it was worth it. A strategy was starting to form. It turns out that just changing a couple of things got us back on track.

Pain without trauma: the strategy

The idea is to surround the moment of pain with a sea of tranquility. You don’t entirely give up on your fear-free oath, but you don’t let it get in the way of treatment.

Here’s how we broke the vicious cycle (note that every dog is different):

  • Carry out the session as you would any low stress handling session (food, warning word, minimum restraint, maximum choice, etc.) but be resolute and quick.
  • As you apply the treatment, give tons of treats (Not after. At the same time). And use his absolute favorite. We’re talking ostrich steak here.
  • Don’t drag it out with unnecessary prep sessions. If you’ve done your homework before, he’ll be desensitized to all the steps leading up to the pain. No need to rehearse this again and again before applying pain. Just get it done.
  • Contemplate using a muzzle (if your dog is muzzle-trained!). Your fear of getting bitten might be making you nervous, and therefore getting in the way.
  • Do a few rehearsals of the treatment immediately afterwards (not up to the pain point, of course), and couple them with treats as usual.
  • If your veterinary behaviourist or veterinarian approves, contemplate a light painkiller before the treatment. Particularly if the treatment is only short-term.
  • Ask your veterinarian (or veterinary behaviourist) about medication that keeps the fear/anxiety/stress under control.

I’ve tried this over the past two days and we are getting solid results: he stays relaxed during treatment, and does not seem to sensitize afterwards.

So it turns out I don’t have to view behaviour modification as the enemy of vet treatment. With a bit of flexibility, they can still work hand in hand.

Puppy Training: Walter’s Ready for His Family -Pet Blog App

Puppy training can be fun. Puppy training can also be exasperating!

When you think about it, there’s an awful lot to teach a puppy. And if you’re going to do it right, you need to pack a lot into 8 short weeks.

Why 8 weeks?

Assuming you get your pup when he’s 8 weeks, you have only another 8 weeks to socialize your pup while the socialization window is still open.

Socialization window?

Puppies are able to learn and explore and build positive (and negative) associations very rapidly for the first 16 weeks of their lives. Because they’re with their breeder for the first 8 weeks, that leaves us with those final 8 weeks. And if you’re not sure what your pup needs to see, heart, learn, do, and experience, it can be overwhelming. Well, really, even if you do know, it can still be overwhelming because that’s an awful lot of stuff to put on your to-do list!

Walter’s people knew they didn’t have the time or the know-how to raise the puppy they really wanted: a happy-go-lucky guy who would have some basic manners, be house trained, and could go with them to all the fun places and do all the fun things.

That’s where I came in — my specialty is puppies!

I’ve raised puppies since 2001. The pups I raised were from a service dog organization and it was critical that I socialize them efficiently and thoroughly. And that I installed basic good manners behavior in those pups early (and often). When a friend suggested that I raise a pet puppy (a pup that was going to grow up to be a good, well-rounded family dog [not a service dog]), I was intrigued. I hadn’t ever considered it before. But why not? I had done it 16 times before!

So in came Walter.

His people chose him from the breeder and I picked him up at 8 weeks of age.

I had my work cut out for me. Walter was a scared little guy who didn’t have a whole lot of experience or socialization from his breeder. It took him a week or two to get him comfortable in his own skin, but thankfully he was a curious puppy and loved food, so I could use food to help him enjoy people and places and things.

He was frightened of what I consider “everyday noises” like a plastic Solo cup being dropped, the cellophane envelopes that rattle when opened, and the noise of an empty can being tossed into the recycle bin. He was a bit timid around new people and wasn’t the stereotypical outgoing Labrador. We took it slow and easy, making sure to read his body language to gauge his ability and willingness to learn new things.

After about four weeks, I was seeing a really nice transformation happening.

He was much more waggy, actually pulling me to go see new people! He didn’t try to hide when I took him to the veterinarian, and he was much more tolerant of noises and new experiences.

Fast forward to today and now I have to hold Walter back!

He’s a social butterfly with both people and dogs, but is also quick to read other dog’s body language and back off if needed. He’s willing to trust me in new situations and looks for guidance from me if he’s uncertain.

That’s the foundation that all puppies need if they’re going to continue a lifetime of learning — that foundation of quality and timely socialization, trust and cooperation with people.black Labrador, black Lab, puppy training, socialization, clicker, Frederick, Smart Dog

Now that Walter has some confidence, has had some positive experiences with novel items, and understands that he is part of the team, the sky is the limit for him!

His people will be able to continue the learning that I’ve started, teaching him all the things that he needs to know to live comfortably with them as he transitions to his new life.

People always ask if it’s hard for me to let a dog go that I’ve had a hand in raising.

I do! Every. Single. Time. There are always tears. But the good news is get to watch Walter when his family goes away for vacations and travel! So he’s not really leaving, after all. He’ll be back for mini-vacations and will get lots of lovin’ from us.

He’s grown into a lovely young adolescent Labrador. Who will need more training if he’s going to continue to grow into the dog this family has dreamed of. He’s a teenager and will need guidance and reassurance as he continues on his path of learning.

He’s gotten a good start, though, so any challenges that he faces will be handled more efficiently and effectively using the positive and cooperative training that he’s learned.


Will I Always Have to Use Treats? -Pet Blog App

This is a common question that rarely gets a complete answer, and to give you the best answer, this post will be a little heavy in terms and psycho-babble…I’ll apologize up front, but I have a BA in Psych from KU (Rock Chalk!) So, training in a positive reinforcement manner requires two things; a behavior that you want and a reward to maintain or reinforce that behavior. The problem is, many people think that rewarding a dog is synonymous with bribing them and once started, it will have to go on forever! This is an untrue statement (bordering on a lie) that is commonly used by those who want to punish or correct a behavior in order to gain control. It is my job in this post, and as a trainer, to convince anyone reading that using treats or rewards is the best and correct path to take; so let’s get right to it!

There are three things you can do to a behavior; reward it, punish it or ignore it. Let’s take the example of showing up to work on time (or not.) If I punish someone who does not show up on time, I become the bad guy and my employees learn to avoid (or hide from) me, or they only show up late when I am not around. If I ignore it, my employees see that nothing happens when they are late and learn they can continue with the behavior with no effect, good or bad. Finally, I can reward showing up on time with praise or a reward (a raise) and they will continue to replicate the behavior because it feels good. The reason for sharing this example is to show the futility in ignoring or punishing behavior…those responses do not necessarily reduce or eliminate a behavior over the long term. You may get some immediate change in the behavior, but no lasting effect. Unfortunately it breeds avoidance, indifference or lack of motivation. I think each of us have had a boss that fits this bill at one time or another.

So let’s get back to dog training. When I first begin teaching a behavior, I reward for every success. If I am teaching sit and the dog’s rump hits the ground, I follow up the behavior with a tasty treat. This is where most opponents to treat training start screaming “see, I told you they bribed the dog” or “my dog does what I tell them because I am in control” (sounds like that boss we were talking about, doesn’t it?) What those folks don’t see is that all good positive reinforcement trainers will begin to fade the reward as the dog becomes more reliable with the requested behavior; showing the reward doesn’t have to go on forever. Humans figured out long ago that if we continue to reward every time a behavior is given, the reward eventually loses its effectiveness. Think about Vegas. If you walked into a casino and saw a slot machine that paid out a dime for every nickel you put in, you would probably sit down and start playing! But if you found out that you could only put in one nickel per play, after a period of time the dime pay out would get old and boring. If, while feeding one nickel into your machine at a time, you notice the person next to you playing a quarter slot and all of a sudden their machine went nuts and started making noise and paid out 46 quarters, which one of these machines would you want to play? This is an example, simply, of what psychology refers to as continual vs. intermittent reward schedules.

How does this relate to dogs and training? Simple, when we first teach a behavior, we reward every success (continual). We continue this until a predetermined level is reached, then we switch to rewarding only randomly (intermittent). For me, this predetermined level is an 80% success rate. This means that when a dog is successfully performing a behavior 80% of the time I ask for it, I believe they know the material and are ready to move to “Vegas Style Training”. In other words, their rewards are ready to come randomly. This improves behavior because now you choose which version of behavior to reward. In other words, a slow “sit” would get nothing while a prompt “sit” would be rewarded!

So why 80% and how often will I have to reward…read on! 80% is a level that I picked based on my own personal experience (that you might all be able to relate to!) When I was a kid, if I got straight A’s (90% or above) my parents made a huge deal out of it, it was a PARTY!!! If I got all C’s or lower (>70%) it was not a pleasant night in the Deathe household. If I got all B’s (80%) nothing much was said because I knew the material, not well enough for a Party, but good enough to NOT get in the dog house. At 80% the dog is ready to move on to an intermittent reward schedule. So how much should you treat your dog once you move them to the intermittent reward schedule? I use a treat 20-30% of the time (2-3 treats per 10 correct responses). The magic is that once you have this level mastered at 80%, you replace treats with affection and life rewards for the dog. By this, I mean love and pets become the reward used in most cases for positive reinforcement. Even though my primary reward system for my dogs has moved to affection, I continue to use food treats periodically to keep interest and motivation going strong, and especially when I’m trying to reinforce a behavior or when I’m teaching a new trick! So I ask you…are using treats in dog training the right or wrong way to relate to your four legged friends? Only you can decide!